Voting concerns loom with election nearing

Elections director John Arntz is always nervous when election season looms, but in November he’s anticipating the largest voter turnout in San Francisco history — and those voters may be using new voting machines that still have not been certified by the state.

Sequoia Voting Systems, the maker of the machines San Francisco intends to use this November, submitted its ranked-choice systems to Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office late this summer and testing of those systems is complete, according to Bowen spokeswoman Kate Folmar.

Following a public hearing on the test results Sept. 26, the earliest Bowen could certify the machines for use is Oct. 6 — the same day residents can begin casting early ballots at City Hall, Arntz said.

If Bowen takes any time with her decision, those early votes might not be made on machines.

“If the touch-screen machines aren’t certified, paper ballots will be here and voting will continue,” Arntz said. “But someone who required disabled-accessible equipment wouldn’t be able to vote.”

Advocates for the disabled have fought hard to provide the equal right to independent and private voting for disabled voters, according to Beth Berenson, vision-loss resource center specialist with Lighthouse for the Blind.

“It’s very important, with all the choices being made in this election, that our community participates,” Berenson said.

San Francisco signed a $12.6 million contract in December to purchase the new electronic voting machines from Oakland-based Sequoia. Last November, local ballots had to be hand counted after machines from The City’s previous vendor, Election Systems & Software, were not certified in time, which led to a $3.5 million lawsuit settlement between San Francisco and ES&S.

If Sequoia’s ranked-choice software is not approved, Bowen will allow San Francisco to use Sequoia machines to tally everything except the seven supervisorial races, according to Arntz.

In ranked-choice voting, rather than picking a single candidate for each seat, voters name their top three choices in order of preference. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes, a process of eliminating the lowest vote receivers begins and those votes are transferred to the remaining choices until a candidate passes the 50 percent benchmark.

Due to the complicated nature of ranked-choice tabulations, hand-counting ballots to determine the winners among 51 Board of Supervisors candidates in seven districts could take weeks. If that happens, Sequoia has agreed to pay for the hand count, Arntz said.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Tenderloin merchants, residents come together over street closures

Parts of Larkin, Golden Gate to close four days a week to promote outdoor business, dining

Enter ‘The Matrix’: Drive-in movies during a pandemic

Though it’s fun to take in a film and drink, I miss watching bartenders make cocktails

Twin Peaks closure leads to complaints from neighbors

Twin Peaks Boulevard will no longer be entirely closed to motor vehicles… Continue reading

David Kubrin on Marxism and magic in the Mission

Former academic, industrial designer pens book on alternative, or people’s, science

Fire danger high in North and East Bay as region enters another hot, dry weekend

Spare the Air Alert issued for Sunday as heat, smoke and fumes expected to increase

Most Read